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Obama and the Bureaucrazies
Health and Human Services and Styrene
In late 2009, recently inaugurated President Obama stayed in campaign mode, making trips across the country to promote his $800 billion plus economic stimulus package. The president made one town in particular his ground zero for the economic recovery: Elkhart, Indiana. At the time, Elkhart had the nation’s highest unemployment rate, in the neighborhood of 15 percent. Obama visited the town to make a major speech on the stimulus bill and continued to reference the dire situation the town faced as the debate over the stimulus raged, speaking of how the infusion of federal spending would save the town from the brink.
Now, over a year and a half later, Elkhart faces a new crisis driven by the policies of the Obama administration that could wipe out any progress made in the town.
Elkhart is a city that is essentially fueled by a single industry and that industry is the recreational vehicle or RV manufacturing industry. Naturally, this particular area of the commodity market took a beating during the economic down-turn, causing massive layoffs in the town that is home the “RV Hall of Fame” and some of the largest motor home manufacturers in the world.
The newest challenge facing this recovering industry now stems not from rising fuel prices and a flagging economy, but from a regulation proposed by the National Toxicology Program, a program of the Department of Health and Human Services. The issue centers around the chemical called styrene being listed as a candidate for the 12th ROC, or Report on Carcinogens issued by the department. So what does this have to do with RVs?
Modern RVs are made extensively with styrene based composite material parts. Much of the side paneling and other parts, including the various fixtures, such as tub/showers, are made with styrene based composites like resin and fiberglass. These composite parts and materials absolutely require the use of the styrene to be cost effective in their production. Without styrene, these parts could not be made and modern, fuel efficient, RVs would be impossible to produce.
Composite parts are not exclusive to the RV industry. Many industries including the boat/watercraft, tub/shower, construction and infrastructure, and even the wind mill industry depend on styrene based composite parts. The massive wind mill blades advertised in green energy and job stimulation initiatives are almost entirely made of composites that require the use of styrene.
Despite these facts, Obama-appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius is proposing to sign new regulations that would label styrene as a carcinogen, creating incredibly burdensome regulations surrounding the sale and use of the chemical itself and products containing it. This would dramatically increase the cost of U.S. based production of RVs, windmills, and all other products containing composites. These increased costs will likely drive even more windmill production overseas where most of it already exists and would certainly wipe out the only industry that keeps Elkhart alive.
Additionally, an overwhelming majority of the lab studies on the effects of styrene as a cancer causing carcinogen have come back as inconclusive or negative. In fact a lab study on lab rats and mice, found on the National Toxicology Program’s own website shows tests of styrene’s “Levels of Evidence of Carcinogenicity” as completely non-existent or negative in a majority of categories, and inconclusive in the rest.
Obama has staked much of his rhetoric and policy in the success of green energy initiatives like wind farms, and massive federal spending influxes designed to save single industry towns like Elkhart. Yet the administration continues its aggressive pursuit of new regulations – through HHS, the EPA, and the rest of the bureaucracy – that stifle economic growth. Styrene is essential in producing the composite products that the president has touted as the keys to economic recovery, yet his administration is ready to create a storm of burdensome regulations surrounding a chemical that has never proven to be dangerous; regulations that will surely cost thousands and thousands of American jobs across dozens of industries and all across the country. This is simply another case of bureaucrats and the president getting a little “bureaucrazy”.